One Page for 10/21/2019

Even though this blog shows that my last one-pager post was from June, I have been writing in this journal on a more consistent basis. It partly comes from a place of self-flagellation (my friend gifted me this journal two years ago…) and of plain self-doubt. There is the recurring question of “what’s the point?”, which has also come into my thoughts as I considered whether to renew my domain for this site.

In the end, I decided to keep it on, as the cost is negligible compared to some other things I’ve been splurging on, and part of me hopes that it’ll be a good repository of my headspace in this period of my life or the inspirations most salient to me now. A sort of digital “Pensieve” 🙂


Prompt: She was the new girl. The one who sat in the cafeteria at lunch alone. Maybe she was from the next state over. Maybe she was from another country. I wanted to know everything about her: her mother’s name, her favorite movie, if she had brothers, sisters, what she…

Response: …did on the weekends when her friends bailed on plans they’d made together. OK, that’s me starting to project, and I own up to that. I’m about to get up and switch to her table when Matthew — my Matthew, well not as in boyfriend or anything but my best friend who I would not turn down an invitation to become more than a friend — swings his ratty backpack onto the bench seat and offer her his hand to shake. I have many questions. One, I thought he was making up a physics lab, or doing an extra one because that’d be who he is. Two, I thought he’d come to me first, and then we could welcome and absorb the new girl into our weird circle, if she wanted to join. By the looks of her open-mouthed laugh now, she’d follow Matthew anywhere, that’s for sure. I haven’t seen him look up and around for me at all. Want as I might to include myself, I’m not sure he’d want me there. I’ve never had a thought like this before, and it creates a weight on my chest and I put down my food, preventatively reach for a napkin. My things I want to know about her have changed: How are you not nervous to laugh that big in front of him? Do you have a boyfriend? Do you like Matthew?


I started reading a new young adult novel, if it’s isn’t obvious already.

One Page for 1/6/2019

Wow. The gap between this post and the last one-pager goes to show how easy it is to look at my red story prompt notebook each night, week, month and say, “I’ll write later.” Today I walked myself to a Starbucks and am trying to set a good tone for the rest of this new year.

I didn’t realize it until I was about a third of the way down the page, but I was inspired by two Netflix finds I’ve consumed. One is a short two-season (god please let there be more) series called “can’t cope won’t cope,” about two Irish twentysomethings in a codependent friendship that is falling apart fast. At first, it seems like it’s the fault of Aisling, a girl who won’t admit to her alcoholism and almost complete lack of direction in life, leading her to lean precariously on her friend Danielle, who’s trying to get somewhere in life with her art. But then it becomes clear that despite her frustration, Danielle can’t let Aisling go either.

The second find was a short (for a feature at least) film called Six Years, executive produced by the Duplass brothers. The title comes from the length of the relationship that Mel and Dan, two young Austin-ites, have been in. About to join the workforce post college, they’re on the cusp of deciding whether to stay or go their separate ways, literally too. Their love is young despite the length of time they’ve devoted to each other, and therefore rash and impulsive, leading to a night in jail, stepping on broken glass, and a bloody crash into a dresser drawer. It’s a movie with seemingly low stakes and an everyday problem people might face, but it’s because of that and because it’s done so well that I didn’t check the time until I was twenty minutes from the inevitable ending.

So you can see where my inspirations for Harold’s motivations came from. 🙂 Here goes.


Ugh I hate this new block editor.
No idea how to rotate this while editing on my phone.

Prompt:

Someone wrote that insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result each time. By that definition, Harold was surely insane. Once again, he was…

My response:

…sitting in his car in the guest parking spot outside Hannah’s block of apartments. Or townhouses. She was the stickler for describing things accurately. She did it with her feelings, too, and the last conversation they’d had—or spiel she gave—had made it clear there was no reason to believe she’d answer her phone now and come out and take him back in with her. At least, relieve him of the awkward wave and smile he directed at one of her neighbors, who’d always, and also now, flared at him for parking (taking up) a spot meant for guests. Goddamn. He was an interloper now. That’s what her neighbor’s look had said no matter how much he wanted to rebel against it. An intruder. Harold raised his free palm and drove it into his steering wheel, narrowly missing the horn. Thankfully Hannah’s neighbor was out of earshot, unable to hear the growl that escaped Harold. Harold and Hannah had been together for five years. Her slap to his face last week was not the end-all to them. They had been through worse—bruises, cold shoulders, doors slammed so loud his ears rang for hours afterward—and didn’t react like this: pretending the other didn’t exist. His existence depended on hers, and she would come out. He always made the first move.

The Aquarium

October 25, 2016 | straining through turbulence

aquaview

The minute hand of Quinn’s watch ran as fast as the possibilities did in her mind. It was silly. She knew he wasn’t like that and appreciated the effort he was making to get here at all. His project’s client was almost not worth it, but until it was his choice to make, here they were. Or here she was. She and her thousands of well-traveled friends.

Paul grew up on the west coast and ingested as much seawater as she did faux-healthy smoothies in high school. Passionfruit coolers were as close as she got to an island lifestyle in suburbia. His skin had absorbed all the sunlight it could before going off to college, and it radiated through, despite the dark and cold blanket that covered New England for most of the year. She fell in love with his brilliance. When it came to her turn to pick for date night, she wanted a place they could slowly amble together, not sitting in some dim space deciphering dish descriptions. She didn’t realize until now that most of the aquarium would wash them in a deep shade of blue anyway.

Truth be told, the place wasn’t her original idea. Or maybe it was. Her feed had served her an ad, algorithmically chosen based on her admiration for National Geographic photos and envy of her friend’s recent snorkeling trip in Australia. A night at the aquarium at a discount. She barely needed to think for herself. Somewhere there was an engineer she should thank. Maybe one of his friends.

Quinn had pointed out the California coast exhibit advertised on the website. It wouldn’t be an exact homecoming for him, but they could get a taste. She imagined him standing on his board and surfing above the multitudes of life below. He had only shrugged and said it should be fun. She thought it could be like college again. They had loved going to museums and exhibits around the city. They dared each other to narrate the introduction to the artist placards in their best imitations of snooty curators’ voices. He even maintained character when trusting tourists asked him to explain more about the artwork.

She stared at the card that detailed the distinct stripes of the delicate shrimp species in the picture window-sized tank. A second face suddenly materialized in Cheshire cat fashion next to her reflection.

“When did you get here?” Quinn asked and offered him a smile. She looked for indicators of how his day had went.

“I came straight from work.” Paul immediately took her hand in his and steered her towards the entrance to the rest of the aquarium.

“What’s the rush? The fish aren’t going anywhere.”

“I’m kind of tired, okay?”

“Okay, sorry.”

Her imitation of Jean-Jacques Cousteau could wait.

She broached the subject. “How was today?”

Paul scrolled through a new email on his phone. “Not bad, not good. We found a mistake in our model that had been holding us up this whole time. It got fixed, not a big deal, but I’m still frustrated.”

The summary made it possible for her to understand, but she wondered if the conversation could go longer if she knew more about the work he did. She could take classes.

“Makes sense. It feels like you lost time that you didn’t need to.” Quinn bent down to peer at a dimly lit tank housing a rare octopus species. Paul followed and craned his neck to get a glimpse.

“Yeah, exactly.” He confirmed. “I can’t see this thing. Maybe it’s asleep. How about you? How were the kids?”

Quinn sighed. The class she inherited this year provided more than enough opportunity for her to stretch her teaching skills and make a difference, as the corps had advertised.

“You know that quote from commencement I’d taped to my desk?”

The inner edges of Paul’s brows met as he thought. “Uh, no…?”

“Okay, well it was from the end. The laundry list. ‘Prevent apathy and inspire action.'” Quinn reminded him again. “I think I’m succumbing to apathy.”

“You’ve only been teaching for a year. If real teachers gave up this early, where would we be?” Paul swung their hands back to emphasize. Quinn dampened the motion as she led them to another tank.

“You’re right. Maybe I’m not a real teacher.”

“I didn’t mean it like that. But if you really don’t want to do it anymore, you can quit anytime.”

“I can’t,” she replied. “I know I can make it through another year. I don’t want to give up on those kids like that.”

“Then you won’t.” Paul said quickly. As far as he saw it, he knew she wouldn’t, and so there wasn’t anything else to discuss. After giving this routine report of their days, they shifted into silence.

They walked at a pace not much faster than the large fish swimming languidly in their clear cages. She drifted toward the touch tank, and Paul followed.

“I thought you were too scared to do this?” He asked, swishing his finger in the water. “You can’t even feed a giraffe at the zoo.”

“Starfish don’t have large teeth, however blunt.” Quinn gently stroked one of the arms of a purple specimen.

He cleared his throat, and then a voice worthy of a BBC documentary sounded. “As you’ll see here, we’ve found a rare starfish species with small, serrated rows of teeth on the underside of their arms.”

“You’re bluffing.” Quinn smiled but still retracted her hand from the water. “And why would they need teeth underneath?” She waited for him to counter, but it didn’t happen.

Paul appeared to read the placard intently. She didn’t understand the change until she turned to see a father and his daughter walk in to the section. They couldn’t be the children in the room anymore.

Quinn and Paul joined hands again, and she steered them to the exhibit she had wanted them to come see.

The tank looked like it was two stories tall, and that was just from their standing view. The glass wrapped around most of the wall so that it felt like the fish weren’t on display but the human visitors were instead. Glass also made up part of the floor so that braver guests could see into the world below.

Quinn marveled at how a place like this could have been built in such a crowded city. She should propose the place for a school field trip. It would mean she’d get to come and see it all again.

“Isn’t this place amazing?” she said to Paul.

“Pretty crazy,” he agreed. He looked down at his phone. “Hey, I need to take care of this. I’ll be quick.”

Quinn nodded and watched him leave. As he walked out of the unlit area, his skin regained its deep golden shade.

An aquarium guide waved to get the attention of the guests milling around. Quinn joined the group gathering by the edge of the wall of water.

“We have three species of sharks in our largest tank here in the facility, and they can all be found along the Pacific coast. However, our nurse shark is elusive, and you might have to look underneath your feet to find her.” The guide explained then suddenly pointed down. “There she is now!”

Quinn and a few other more curious listeners rushed over to the glass floor and saw the latter half of the shark glide by. Next to her, a man goaded his girlfriend or wife into crouching down to get a better look.

“It’s right there! Don’t you see it?” he pointed.

“I don’t see anything.” The woman replied confidently, trying to prove that she was in on the joke. He put his hands on her shoulders and guided her closer to the center of the glass. They brushed past Quinn.

The woman yelped as the shark’s snout appeared and then the rest of its thick and powerful body glided by. Quinn gasped in awe at the animal’s fearsome presence.

Paul had to see this. She looked up and then around but found no one to wave over. Her phone didn’t have any messages either.

Quinn turned back to the glass floor. She looked and looked, but she couldn’t spot the animal again.